Drawing of spiders and ants by Randolph Avila, III (age 5) at Kids Explore! 2012.
The following creation story is from the book Stories and Legends of the Palm Springs Indians, "Part I. Legend and Tradition," by Francisco Patencio, as told to Margaret Boynton.
In the beginning there was nothing but nights, and other Indian words call them the two nights-man and woman. They tried to create, to produce a child, but the child was lost before time for its birth. For four times the same happened. Then with a flash of lightning (num yum a wit) came strong twin boys.
The name of the first one was Mo-Cot, and the name of the second was Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit, meaning creator. These were the first people. They were sitting in the air. There was no earth, no water, no light, nothing but darkness; so they could not see each other, but they could hear each other. They did not call each other “brother,” but “my man.”
Now this Mo-Cot, he asked, “What are we going to do, my man?”
Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit answered, “You should know, my man.”
Mo-Cot said, “We must create now.”
Then Mo-Cot created first tobacco. And Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit invented the pipe and gave it two names: man and woman.
This pipe they filled with the tobacco, and not having light of fire or anything of that kind, they drew on the pipe with their mouths, and fire and smoke came into it.
Then Mo-Cot asked Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit, “Which are we going to have the oldest direction?”
Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit answered, “North.”
Mo-Cot said, “I am sitting on the north side, so I am the oldest.” But Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit said, “No, I am oldest.”
Now when Mo-Cot blew the smoke of the tobacco first toward the north, then west, then south, Mo-Cot and Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit were sitting close together in the air, and Mo-Cot, holding the pipe high above his head, said, “The pipe is low, my man.”
Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit believed that the pipe was held low, and groped for it. Not finding it he reached up and discovered that his brother Mo-Cot was holding it high.
Then Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit smoked the pipe. He blew the smoke to the north, the west and the south. When he had finished he handed the pipe back to Mo-Cot and said, “I am up, my man.” But Mo-Cot did not believe him and putting his hand low, he took the pipe.
Together they made a whÒ ya no hut. This is like a bishop’s staff, which is carried in the church today. This they tried to stand up, but it could not stand, because there was nothing for it to stand on. So they put a tem em la wit (bedrock) to steady the whÒ ya no hut, and yet it would not be steady, for it was growing up all of the time.
Now this was the first beginning of the earth. It was the foundation-stone, and is in the middle of the world today. Then they created two kinds of snakes to hold it, but they could not hold it.
They made a big pile of stones and put them around the whÒ ya no hut, and yet it was not steady; so they created great spiders, black ones and white ones (not the spiders of today, but the ones that live in the ends of the world), to weave threads to help hold it steady.
The men climbed up on the whÒ ya no hut to reach the point at the top, and half-way up Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit saw smoke and steam coming up from below, and he asked Mo-Cot, “What is that, my man?”
And Mo-Cot answered, “You ought to know, my man. That is what is left from our birth, the sack we were in, and from that will come sickness, disease and death.” So they went on up to the top.
Then Mo-Cot said they were going to make the earth. So they made the earth, but it would not hold together. Then the two kinds of spiders wove their webs among the earth, and caused it to hold together.
The earth first made grew so fast that it ran to the north like water. Then it went west and south and east, but yet it weaved backward and forward and would not stay still, because of nothing holding it.
Then they made two winds-one a whirlwind and one a cyclone, to blow and smooth and level the earth. At the same time they went north to turn up the end of the earth, and they stood up on the end of the earth to help steady it; also the west, the south and the east.
Yet they could not make it stand still, it was so strong. So they created two kinds of ants – un wit em (red ants) and kao wit em (black ants); but not like the ants of today. Then they went all over the earth, but they could not steady it.
So then they made pal no cit, the water ocean. Then they turned up the edges of the earth, so the water could not run over, and the earth became steady, as we see it today.
Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit asked Mo-Cot, “How are we going to make no cot em (people) like ourselves?”
Mo-Cot answered, “We have made the earth, two kinds: fam av sil (meaning moist earth) and pal lis ma wit (meaning damp earth). Also the u le wit (meaning the clay earth), the ta vi wit (meaning the white clay and also the black clay, the yellow clay and the red clay). Of this earth which we have made will we make the people.”
Then round and about them came a humming and a singing to soothe them, by the Two Nights their parents. This humming and soothing is around and about us in the night forever, to make sleep in the all the earth’s children.
They smoked the tobacco and created Ow il (a dog). They gave him some tobacco also, but the smoke hurt his eyes, and he has never been able to see so well by day as at night since.
Then they created Is el (the coyote), meaning “quick and selfish.” Then they made Moot (the owl), and so soon as he was finished he could see in the dark, and he said “o-o-o.” The coyote jumped quick and took it and set it aside.
Coyote became very busy, helping with all of the created animals, and though he was one of the older brothers, he always told everyone that he was the youngest brother.
So of this earth they began to fashion people, but because of the darkness Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit began making them too fast. Mo-Cot could not see either, but he could feel, and worked carefully, and he made people in the shape they are today.
Then they stopped making people, and wanted to see what they looked like-they needed light. So they blew with their lips, and blew some stars into the sky, but there was so little light from the stars that they could not see well enough; so then they tried to make more light, but could not. They called on all the animals they had created to come and help, and yet there was no more light.
Then Mo-Cot and Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit put their mouths together and blew out the sun, but it bobbed up and down and all around. They tried to grasp and hold it, so that they could see, but they could not catch it. Then it sank into the earth. Next morning the sun came up from the earth and went back into the night, and all the days afterward.
Then Mo-Cot and Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit saw all the people that they had made, and they called them No cot em and Ta ba tem, which mean, “those that have been created.”
Now, after they had looked well at their creations, Mo-Cot said to his brother Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit, “My oldest man, your work is an no com,” which meant that his creation was not good. Which was because some of the faces were double, looking both ways at once, one on the back of the head as well as on the front; and the hands and feet were all webbed, like ducks’; and so Mo-Cot told him.
But Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit said it was all right, for in going they could look forward and backward at the same time, without having to turn around-that there was no use to turn around, it took too much time.
Mo-Cot said, “See, my creations look better with one face, and if anything happens they can turn around and look. Any of mine can lie to sleep three ways, but yours have only one place to lie. And another thing, the hands and feet look very bad with a web across them, that they have no way to split.”
Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit said his hands were better, because in holding them together they could scoop up with one hand more than Mo-Cot’s would with both. And Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit said too that there should be no sickness among them, that there would be no oldest, for if they got old they could go into the water and come out young again.
Mo-Cot said, “There will be sickness come, they will die, and they will get old, and the young ones will come, but when sickness comes we will have those among them to cure sickness.”
Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit said, “There will be no sickness among them. If you do not believe my words, I will go back to where I came from, and take all the creation with me.”
Mo-Cot answered that if there were no sickness or death among the people, the earth, being small, would soon be filled up with too many of them, because of more being raised all the time. And another thing, what are they going to eat?
Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit said that it would be growing all the time, and that they were going to eat that; that it would sprout up as they were eating it.
And so the first brothers quarreled, and all brothers have quarreled ever since.
Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit said that there should be no sickness or death or he would go down where he came from and take with him all that had been made.
Mo-Cot told him, “You can take along with you all that you have made, but of mine you are not to take it.”
Then Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit was thinking to destroy the world, the earth, the sky, the water, and every thing, by taking it along with him; but Mo-Cot said, “No, you won’t. You take along what you have made, what belongs to you, but not anything that I have made will you take with you.”
Now the earth was smooth and level, and so they quarreled, and Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit went down with all his creations.
Then there came an awful time. The sky blackened, and fire flew, and lightning. The earth rocked and rumbled. Earthquakes split the earth every way: Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit trying to destroy it, and Mo-Cot holding, holding down hard as he could, trying to save and protect it and his creations. Then came something worse than all: the smooth land was no more, the earth broke all in pieces, when up rose the mountains, which are here today.
But, try as he could, Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit could not overpower his brother Mo-Cot, who held fast one place and then another, and pushed hard until Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit gave it up.
Now, after every thing had settled and become quiet again, the people could see well, and they saw that they were of different color. For the white clay had made white people, and the black clay had made black people, and the yellow clay had made yellow people, and the red clay had made red people, and each color of people went together.
Then it was that the white-clay people were not pleased about being the only ones without color. The cried to be dark, like the rest. They put different clay on themselves, but it was no good. It came right off after a while.
Then the people called to Mo-Cot that the people were going away. The white people went first, and Mo-Cot said, “Let them go. They are different. They will always be different.”
Then Mo-Cot saw in the daylight that the colored people were fast going from him. He reached quickly behind him and grasped the red people. These were the people that he kept with him. His creation children left him, and so it has been to this day, that the children go on away, instead of staying with the parents. As things were done in the first beginning, so they have done ever since.